Real Brides with Carrie Kieffer

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Wedding planning is always quite the task, but for a designer with a crystal clear vision and endless DIY ideas, this task is twofold. Chicago-based designer Carrie Kieffer tells us about her experience preparing for her perfect day, her favorite tiny details, and how she did it all without a wedding planner.

Her brightly minimalistic, yet meticulously detailed settings show the careful consideration behind each aesthetic decision -- something only a visual designer would be able to achieve with such poise. From her guest bedroom-turned-wedding-storage-unit to posing in front of cement mills, we spoke to Carrie about all things wedding. Read on below.

Best day-of advice you received? 

A good friend of mine told me to wake up early, take a bath, and jump on the bed. I stayed at our hotel the night before by myself and it was the perfect way to set the tone for the day -- by having a little personal party at 7 am before all of my bridesmaids came over to get ready.

Favorite detail from your wedding?

This is a loaded question for me. My favorite parts were all the little things. The most special was hearing the vows Andrew wrote for me and telling Andrew the vows I wrote for him. I'm terrible at public speaking, but in that moment it felt like it was just me and him.

What's the one moment you'll never forget?

Everyone standing up as my dad and I turned the corner to walk down the aisle, with Andrew waiting for me at the front. It was something I had never felt before. So much love was present and I felt so lucky.

What's one thing you would worry less about in retrospect? 

I was knee-deep in planning and DIY-ing. I knew exactly what I wanted and I thought I would be able to do it all. I'm a designer so I'm used to being critical and fussing over the details but when you're doing it for yourself, it's amplified. At points, I was so wrapped up in everything that I forgot I was planning our wedding and not at work.

How did you delegate tasks between you and your fiancé?

After deciding what type of wedding we wanted to have the tasks were naturally delegated. Andrew took care of the food, booze, and honeymoon while I focused on all the visuals, timeline, and communicating with the vendors.

The last month before the wedding, how did you keep yourself organized to make sure you didn't forget anything?

I had a checklist my friend gave me who was also planning a wedding (and had a wedding planner for) so I stole that to map out when I needed to get specific things done. I now understand the importance of a wedding planner. It's not an easy job! Our guest bedroom turned into a wedding storage unit and when it got closer I separated everything out into boxes labeled with table numbers that all aligned with the floor plan for the day.

Advice for picking bridesmaids?

I have an older sister that was my maid of honor and Andrew has a sister that I'm super close with. From there, I had best friends from different parts of my life that knew me and Andrew as a couple. We also had friends do readings during the ceremony so it felt like everyone we wanted had a part. 

Things you had to sacrifice to keep your budget in check? 

My weekends. Instead of hiring people or buying a bunch of things I tried to be cost friendly by designing things myself and DIY-ing a lot. We also wanted a late night food truck but instead chose one of our favorite restaurants as our main caterer so we didn't feel like we needed to have more "fun" food later in the night. 

Was there an image captured at your wedding that you didn't expect but loved? 

Some of my favorite photos are in front of giant cement mills. It doesn't sound romantic but I knew our photographer had a vision and we were going with it. We kept having to move so semis could back in which was funny, but we got the perfect shot and it fit in perfectly with our overall look.

Morning after advice? How did you find time with your new husband while not neglecting all the friends and family that were in town?

We set up a brunch with our immediate family at the hotel we stayed at the morning after. It required little effort on our part but it was so nice to rehash the night with our families and have our first meal as one big family right after. Our wedding was on a Friday so the celebration continued on until Sunday when we left for Italy. I highly suggest a honeymoon right after -- that plane ride with no tasks to complete in my head except for drinking the unlimited wine we were being served and telling each other stories from the weekend was the best. 

Photos: Anna Zajac

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